In C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, there is imagery that haunts me.
The damned arrive via bus at a meadow on the outskirts of Heaven. They are ghostlike, translucent, fading away. But Heaven is Real — blindingly, agonizingly so. The grass feels like knives. The stream like sharp shards of glass. The flowers are too heavy to lift.
It is unbearable for most of the damned. They return back to hell. They cannot face what is True. And so they are held captive in a prison of their own making.
Jesus said: “The Truth will set you free.” But I don’t believe that the Truth of which He spoke has much at all to do with complex theological systems or abstract authority claims, as we tend to assume in modernity. Instead, the Truth of which he spoke is much simpler…and much more robust.
It is Him.
He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. He is what sets us free.
He allows us to be who we are.
We are human beings made in the image of God. This means that, fundamentally, “who we are” are creatures built to love as He loves (and He is love). In other words, we have the capacity to be so filled with the Love of God that we melt into Him; we become One with Him. This is the essence of the Great Intercessory Prayer of John 17. This is what He meant when He said that Life Eternal is to know God and Christ. He didn’t mean some rudimentary head-knowledge of God’s characteristics. He meant an experiential, Holy Union, the way we know our most cherished loved ones; a relationship between God and us and the people around us.
Yet so often, we choose not to be who we are. We choose to be who we think we should be. We choose to be who we think others want us to be. We put pressure on people around us to do the same. We pile on layers of deceit and shame, anger and judgment, lust and vice, fear and control. We think we’re doing right, but every layer takes us further and further from Truth, from Him, until we’re wasting away like the ghosts in The Great Divorce.
But here is the miracle of it all: we can be who we are just the way we are. We can choose Him this instant, whatever our circumstances, and He will set us free.
What does it look like?
Freedom in Christ means seeing our best qualities without boasting and our worst qualities without shame. It means seeing others’ best qualities without envy and their worst qualities without judgment. It is being able to change and repent without fear or hesitation, because even when we make mistakes, we know our worth. It is forgiving others before they apologize (or if they never do), because even when they make mistakes, we know their worth.
Freedom in Christ means embracing folks who are as flawed and floundering and foolish as we are (though perhaps in different ways) with the same open arms we’ve found in our union with Him. It is letting those around us be free to experience their own transformations in their own way, trusting that God will do as well by them as He has by us. It is knowing that whatever happens, however painful, He will use it for our good, for we are in Him and He in us.
Freedom in Christ means being transformed so that when He appears we shall be like Him. It is knowing Him even as we are known. It is being who we are — who we really, truly are — and knowing it is Enough.
This is a post that’s been brewing for a really long time. I’ve got bits and pieces written in fragment after fragment in my drafts folder. It’s a big topic. It’s an important one. At the expense of sounding melodramatic, it pretty much sums up my entire philosophy for living on this planet with other people.
It’s too big a topic to cover comprehensively in a format like this, but I figured I’d at least try to articulate some of the most important philosophical underpinnings. Then I’ll follow it up with a post on how this approach affects the way I interact with people. For the record, this is a faith-based perspective that is deeply informed by my Mormon beliefs and my own experiences with God.
Quite simply, it goes like this: I believe in a world of radical freedom and radical grace.
This is the 100th post on my blog! Celebration time!!!!! 🙂
Since it’s my hundredth post, and it’s coming up on the New Year, I thought it might be a nice opportunity for reflection. So I went through some of the old posts I’d written. WOW. What a transformative few years it’s been since I started writing my blog in June 2008.
In some ways, it’s painful to read. In other ways, it’s miraculous. I read between the lines and remember what this journey has been. In particular, it’s striking to revisit the agonizing confusion that came with my fight against OCD, especially before I knew I had OCD (I wasn’t diagnosed until December 2010, but I have been battling it my whole life). I see it in every post, every question. And yet, I would not change any of it. OCD has been my life’s greatest trial; but as is often the case with great trials, it has also provided many of my greatest gifts.
Today, I’d like to share some of the gifts OCD has given me — graces I would not have received were it not for my day-to-day struggle to live a rich, meaningful life despite my disorder. I write this for the benefit of others struggling with difficult trials of every variety (including myself!), but with a special place in my heart for those facing mental illness. I hope this will be a reminder that there is meaning in our battle, that God can create tremendous beauty from even the deepest despair, that there is hope for all of us.
My last post was about doubt, something with which I am intimately acquainted due to my lifelong battle with OCD (often called the “doubting disease”). Obviously, chronic doubt, like the kind associated with OCD, can have a profound impact on one’s spiritual life — so I wrote the post in an attempt to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned in my quest to cultivate faith anyway. I hope it can be a source of help and strength not just for OCD sufferers, but people who struggle with doubt in any way (which, let’s face it, is all of us).
It occurred to me this morning, though, that spirituality isn’t the only thing impacted by OCD. It has also has a major effect on emotional health. So today, I wanted to share some of the strategies I’ve learned about being emotionally healthy, despite managing a mental illness. I haven’t always been great at these — and, in fact, am still mastering most of them — but they are useful principles that I work on daily.